Frequently Asked Questions

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  • What do NEP and LEP stand for?

    NEP: Non English Proficient
    LEP: Limited English Proficient

  • Where can I find support materials?

    Click here for support materials.

  • What is the difference between an interpreter and a translator?

    Translation is the conversion of a written text into a written text in a second language, whereas Interpreting is the spoken form of converting one language into another.

    An interpreter's work happens in the moment and most often in-person, where there is little time to look up dictionary translations. The objective of the professional interpreter is for the complete transfer of the thought behind what is spoken in one language into a second language. Listening, visual observation, a fantastic short-term memory, and a large mental reservoir of vocabulary are critical skill sets for the interpreter.

  • Can an interpreter translate and vice versa?

    An individual who is verbally fluent in a language is not always able to correctly and clearly write in the same language of verbal fluency. A translator's work is solitary, with time budgeted into the process to examine dictionary translations and make judgments about the best way to convey the message. S/he are familiar with idiomatic expressions specific to the audience. This process is called localization, and takes into consideration a reader's educational, social, and cultural background.

  • What is a Certified Interpreter?

    The term “certified interpreter" generally means that an Interpreter is skilled in the three modes of interpretation: consecutive, simultaneous, and sight translation and has been tested. In California, State certification is currently only available for legal interpreting.

  • Who can certify an Interpreter?

    The Federal government and a handful of states offer various certifications for legal interpreters. At present, there are also two non-profit organizations that can certify healthcare interpreters in a limited number of languages. (the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters, and the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters.)

  • Does translation software work?

    Currently, an accurate 1-click solution to translate one language into another does not exist. Although there are a variety of off-the-shelf consumer software products claiming to translate correctly, the truth is that language is a particularly difficult, high level function of the human brain. To date, there is no technological solution for accurately capturing meaning in one language and conveying the meaning into a “perfect translation.” Many consumer translation software programs merely translate literally, and create translations that have glaring errors in semantics, syntax and grammar.

    Translation is as much a social science as a linguistic process. Localizing a Spanish translation to the vernacular of an agricultural worker versus a white collar readership from separate countries in Latin America requires a grasp of the cultural nuances and idiomatic expressions that capture's a reader's attention, and accurately and completely convey the meaning, tone and intent of the written communication.

    Human linguistic capabilities represent one of the more evolved and complicated functions our brain is capable of, and as such, interpreting and translating is one of the highest functions our brains perform. Even today's fastest supercomputers cannot capture the rich intricacies of language interpreting and translation.

  • Is the knowledge of a foreign language enough to be a successful Healthcare interpreter?

    As the interpreting profession evolves and develops into a recognized and important contributor to the healthcare industry, proficiency speaking a foreign language is merely the starting point of a healthcare Interpreters professional development. The healthcare interpreter must have adequate training to effectively serve as the vital linguistic and cultural link to the limited English Proficient patient. The professional must begin their career with a firm grasp of medical terminology, human organs and systems, how major diseases affect the body, as well as a general understanding of how medical groups, HMO's, hospitals and clinics service patients.

    Apart from bilingual competency, a healthcare Interpreter must learn how to: address both patient and provider, when to ask for clarification, fully understand and comply with HIPAA regulations, employ professional boundaries, tailor their interpreting to the circumstance, and manage pre-appointment protocols. The crucial skills identified above and many others are now recognized as the requisite knowledge base necessary for best business practices in Interpreting industry.

    Language World Interpreters are linguistically tested in English and their language(s) of service, background checked, drug screened and medically cleared at the same level as clinicians. Professional Interpreters are required to meet certain educational standards including an in-classroom introduction to Interpreting, completion of field mentorships and assessments, and training relating to the procedures and policies for working in hospitals, clinics and private residences while on home health assignments.

  • What is a Target Language? What is a Source Language?

    A Source Language is the language used by the speaker, or the written language a document is written in that will be interpreted or translated into another language.

    A Target language is the language of the listener, or the objective of a translation.

  • Are there different kinds (modes) of interpreting?

    Consecutive Interpreting:
    Most widely used in healthcare and community interpreting settings, Consecutive Interpreting involves relaying converted (interpreted) messages in a sequential manner after a speaker has paused or has completed a thought.

    Simultaneous Interpreting:
    Simultaneous Interpreting involves converting a speaker’s message into another language while the speaker continues to speak. This type of interpreting is commonly used in conference and classroom settings.

    Chuchotage or Whispered Interpreting:
    Chuchotage or whispered interpreting is a form of simultaneous interpreting for which no interpreting equipment is required. This type of interpreting requires that an Interpreter position themselves near to their target listener and whispers the speaker’s message. Chuchotage is used during classes or conferences when there are only 1-2 persons in need of interpreting services.

    Sight Translation:
    An interpreter reads a document written in the source language and interprets it into a second language.

    American Sign Language:
    (excerpted from the National Association of the Deaf located at: )

    …”Sign language is a visual language. This means that the brain processes linguistic information through the eyes instead of ears. It also means that facial expressions and body movements play an important part in conveying information. It is possible to sign without using facial or body expressions, but doing so may give a mixed message and may confuse your deaf listeners. It will also look odd or unnatural.

    Sign language by itself is not a universal language -- each country has their own sign language, much like the thousands of languages spoken by hearing people all over the world. Like any spoken language, American Sign Language (ASL) is a living language with its own rules of grammar. Like all verbal languages, ASL grows and changes over time to accommodate the needs of its native users. If you were to travel to another state and had an opportunity to speak with a deaf person of that state, you may even notice that s/he will do some signs differently from you. These signs are known as "regional" signs, and you can think of them as the equivalent of "accent". It does not mean that deaf people in your state are signing their signs incorrectly, as opposed to those used by deaf people in another state. It is just a normal variation in ASL, and such regional signs add flavor to your understanding of ASL. It is important to remember that when you discover there is no sign for a word, it does not mean you can invent or make up a new sign.”

  • Can you describe the different types of interpreters and the characteristics of their typical assignments?

    Healthcare Interpreters / Community Interpreters:
    A healthcare interpreter is an individual who has been trained specifically for healthcare interpreting, adheres to a professional code of ethics and protocols for the profession, is knowledgeable about medical terminology, and can accurately and completely render communication from one language to another. Minor children are not considered appropriate to serve as interpreters because they lack the training, skills and competencies.

    Generally speaking, healthcare and community interpreters utilize the consecutive mode of interpreting. Typical assignments can take place in hospitals, outpatient clinics, private medical practices, schools, community centers, and government offices.

    Mental Health Interpreters:
    Cultural beliefs and values play an important role relating to the perceptions and perspectives surrounding mental illness and health problems. These beliefs directly impact the idioms of distress used by a patient to label the illness or symptoms. Mental Health Interpreters apart from upholding the same ethical standards of impartiality, confidentiality, transparency, professional boundaries (and more) of the healthcare Interpreter, must also provide significant assistance as a cultural clarifier for the provider. Other core competencies of the Mental Health Interpreter include a significant understanding of the language and treatment protocols of the mental health systems. Typical assignments the Mental Health Interpreter performs in the in-patient or out-patient settings include: domestic abuse, substance abuse, mood, anxiety, thought, personality and adjustment disorders. Another part of serving specific refugee populations as a mental health interpreter is helping patients deal with the real effects of residual trauma experienced in their home countries during violent social upheavals that have displaced so many thousands throughout the world.

    Conference Interpreters:
    Conference Interpreters enable all members of a formal meeting or conference to follow and contribute to the proceedings in their respective languages. Conference Interpreters generally perform simultaneous interpreting and utilize microphones and headphones. In purpose-built venues, there are typically sound-proof booths from which the Interpreters can operate with minimal distraction. This is a very intensive form of interpreting and Interpreters must break at regular intervals.

    Court and/or Legal Interpreters:
    Court-Certified or Legal Interpreters are utilized in civil and criminal legal proceedings. Their ability to interpret complex legal procedures and vocabulary, without changing the speaker’s legal register, is crucial. Typically, they interpret for a witness or defendant who speaks for a limited or non-English proficient speaker while also representing legal professionals. Court Interpreters may appear at an arraignment, motion, pre-trial conference, preliminary hearing, deposition or trial. They may also be asked to conduct sight translation for legal documents.

    In California, there are presently 13 languages for which a Court/Legal Interpreter can become professionally certified.

    General Business Interpreters:
    These types of Interpreters manage communication flows between businesses and their clients as well as business to business negotiations. Their knowledge is broadly founded in business terminology, but many have specific industries in which they work. Demand for these types of individuals is expanding with increased globalization in the marketplace.

    Delegation Interpreters:
    Typically these are highly skilled Interpreters that accompany a visiting delegation of foreign dignitaries for their official business as well as social engagements that usually occur during such visits. Delegation Interpreters may be asked to accompany a group during their entire stay in the host locale (often resulting in a 10 to 14 hour work day), as well as be asked to help with overall destination management services in the Target Language.

    Ad Hoc Interpreters:
    Generally speaking, untrained individuals drafted into service at the spur of the moment due to an immediate need to communicate with a limited English proficient speaker. Many times, Ad Hoc Interpreters are family members or even children of limited English speakers.

    Governmental – Military, Intelligence, United Nations, Foreign Service:
    Highly skilled career Interpreters that serve in all aspects of government work, whether it be on the battlefield, at a state dinner, during official meetings of the United Nations, or for major national intelligence services. These Interpreters operate at the highest levels of the profession and often have advanced education and training as well as security clearances necessary to perform their duties.

  • What is HIPAA?

    The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) became a law on April 12th 2001. HIPAA regulations are de¬signed to improve efficiency and effectiveness through the use of electronic healthcare transactions, dramatically reducing data collection and paperwork burdens, avoiding costly healthcare errors and protecting confidential patient information.

    Traditionally, individual healthcare organizations wishing to ensure patient data privacy had to rely on inconsistent state laws and regulations that were both incomplete and contradictory. Personal health information was often distributed without notice or consent and for reasons that had nothing to do with a patient's medical treatment or healthcare reimbursement. Under HIPAA, healthcare organizations have to guarantee their patients that private information collected, maintained, used or transmitted will remain entirely confidential in order to administer plans and provide services.

    HIPAA requires the healthcare industry to protect the privacy of patient records and promotes a uniform security standard for the electronic transmission of patient-identifiable information. Existing systems used to store and access electronic data will have to be re-evaluated. If they lack the capacity for adequate access control or auditing, they will need to be enhanced or replaced.

  • Who is Affected by HIPAA?

    HIPAA applies to almost all healthcare industry segments involved in the electronic transmission of health information containing content that could compromise patient confidentiality.

    HIPAA mandates cover a broad range of organizations:
    • All health plans, including government and military health programs, Managed Care Organizations, indemnity insurers and employer-sponsored benefit plans
    • Healthcare providers
    • Healthcare services and suppliers
    • Healthcare clearinghouses—companies who process medical and dental transactions
    • All healthcare business associates, such as accountants and practice management consultants

  • Are Organizations Required by Law to Pay for Language Services?

    Language access services are broadly addressed at the federal level. Under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, state, local, or regional entities receiving federal funds may not discriminate based on race, color, or national origin. In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed Executive Order 13166, which extends “meaningful” language access requirements of Title VI to federal agencies and federally funded programs and services.

    Language access services are also regulated at the state level. California—with its diverse population needs—is the nation’s leader in legislating language access. In 2009, Senate Bill 853 became law, stipulating that all medical, dental and specialty insurers must provide no-cost translation and interpreting services to their NEP/LEP enrollees that meet the requirement for threshold languages. The formula for determining these threshold languages is based upon enrolees demographics that trigger the mandatory translation of vital documents and provisioning of spoken language interpreting services either remotely or on-site. With regard to interpreting, an interpreter must be made available in a timely manner to render spoken language assistance. For those recipients who require American Sign Language interpreting, a different set of regulations codified by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), ensures timely, high quality, no-cost access for ASL interpreting services. In both cases, it is the responsibility of the health plan to ensure that they are using competent language professionals. The California Department of Managed Health care is tasked with providing oversight and regulation of this law.

    * Source: The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network